Business

Cooper: Utility customers deserve lower rates

Posted April 29, 2013

Attorney General Roy Cooper

— Attorney General Roy Cooper on Monday asked state regulators to lower the rates paid by Duke Energy customers in light of a recent North Carolina Supreme Court decision.

The court struck down a 7.2 percent increase on electric rates that the state Utilities Commission awarded to Duke Energy last year and ordered the commission to evaluate the impact on consumers to determine an appropriate rate.

Duke's 1.8 million customers in North Carolina have been paying the higher rate – about $7 extra a month for the average residential electrical bill – since February 2012.

“The Supreme Court agreed that focusing only on profits without taking customers into consideration isn’t a fair way to set utility rates,” Cooper said in a statement. “Families and businesses that have paid unfairly high power bills over the past year deserve a break.”

He filed a motion with the Utilities Commission calling for lower electric rates for Duke customers going forward.

"It would be inequitable, especially in these economically challenging times, for Duke to continue to collect increased rates from consumers pursuant to a legally deficient order,” he said.

The Public Staff, the state agency that represents consumers in utility cases before the commission, negotiated the 7.2 percent increase with Duke, noting that the utility had wanted to raise rates by 17 percent.

The Consumer Protection Division in Cooper's office argued in court that even that much of an increase was exorbitant in light of the sputtering economy and the tight budgets many families face.

Charlotte-based Duke maintained that state law requires the commission to consider the changing economy only as it relates to shareholders, not consumers. The company said it has spent more than $4 billion on new, more efficient power plants and needed to recoup its investment.

Duke is seeking another 9.7 percent rate increase, while Raleigh-based Progress Energy, which Duke acquired last July, wants a 5.7 percent increase.

Cooper said he plans to oppose Progress Energy’s request, noting that it doesn’t adequately consider the impact on consumers.

“(The Supreme Court) ruling should serve as a guide for future decisions to lower utility company profits and consumer rates,” he said.

26 Comments

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  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 1, 3:02 p.m.

    ConservativeVoter said, “Seems that NC is letting the utilities gouge us.”

    Cool. A real conservative voter. :-) So, tell me...What Would a “Conservative” Do? Increase gov’t regulation and oversight of private business and force them to fix their prices at a certain level to please all of the people who complain about energy costs? Or, let businesses regulate themselves and set their own prices...and let the market work itself out...while ignoring the little people who have to budget their earnings?

  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 1, 2:55 p.m.

    @kornfan, sorry, I should not have said that. If you're not exaggerating, seek competent and *professional* HVAC help.

    I've had lots of experience with this. One house that I was flipping, a large, old house (3500 sf), had winter gas bills over $500. I replaced the 29 year old heating system (unit & ductwork) and it went to $250...and that's with 25 single pane glass windows and little insulation. Electric heatpumps on newer/tighter houses can beat easily beat this.

  • Qwerty27807 Apr 30, 4:59 p.m.

    Considering the incestuous relationship between regulators and the industries they regulate, do you really expect the needs of the public are even (momentarily) considered?
    Ban the revolving door and put some teeth in conflict-of-interest rules now!

  • federalsales2 Apr 30, 4:09 p.m.

    How people can keep paying higher and higher power bills is gotten out of hand. You can only cut the pie so many times, and somebody is going to loose. In the end it the older people on social security that are having it the hardest, and that is not right.

  • ConservativeVoter Apr 30, 4:06 p.m.

    A friend of mine who moved from Raleigh to south of Nashville, TN pays less for electricity and natural gas for a 3000 sq ft home than he paid in North Raleigh for a 2000 sq ft home.

    Seems that NC is letting the utilities gouge us.

  • krimson Apr 30, 2:09 p.m.

    "That’s the free market."

    Duke Power doesn't fit the free market model - it provides a Public Service. You can dispute the definitions, but We as a People have decided to make it so by law. Since it is a Public Service and has Monopolistic Power, the only form of oversight is from The People via their elected officials.

    Go back and read about Standard Oil if you want to know why we do things this way now...

  • kornfan2448 Apr 30, 1:52 p.m.

    Now why would I lie about my electric bill, seriously? It is what it is. I have done everything except replace the windows which I simply can not afford to do. The people that lived here previously, before I made the improvements, paid nearly $300/mo., mainly in the winter because they kept it MUCH warmer than I do.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 30, 1:25 p.m.

    Thanks, @whatelseisnew. You don’t disappoint. Just like gasoline, companies should be able to charge whatever they want...and even “coordinate” their prices. That’s the free market. You can always start refining your own oil and distribute it if you want...

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 30, 1:23 p.m.

    kornfan2448 “It already cost me between $150-$200/mo. to heat/cool my small 900 sq. ft. house that is never above 70 in the winter or below 80 in the summer, and that's after installing new insulation in the walls and floors.”

    Either stop lying or close your windows. Seriously, call a certified HVAC person. Your ducts may no longer be hooked up (or have huge holes in them), your 30 year old system may need to be replaced, raccoons ate your attic insulation...or someone is stealing your electricity.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Apr 30, 1:15 p.m.

    knewberg said, “It's immoral for stockholders to make a profit off the suffering of people.”

    You’re right, of course. But, what does for-profit healthcare have to do with this?

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